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Location Saudi Arabia, Ash Sharqiyah
Central coordinates 49o 53.80' East  27o 22.10' North
IBA criteria A1, A4i, A4iii, B1i, B2, B3
Area 2,000 ha
Altitude 0 - 5m
Year of IBA assessment 1994

Saudi Wildlife Commission (Affiliate)

Site description Five uninhabited coral islands (Harqus 27°56'N 49°41'E, Karan 27°44'N 49°50'E, Kurayn 27°39'N 49°50'E, Jana 27°22'N 49°54'E, Jurayd 27°11'N 49°52'E) in the northern Arabian Gulf, 35-90 km offshore. Island areas range from 2 to 120 ha (total c.190 ha), with a maximum elevation of 3-4 m, and they are surrounded by extensive, shallow coral reefs. There are wide, sand beach platforms, and the central parts of the larger islands are well-vegetated with Salsola and Suaeda, and Mesembryanthemum after good rains. The islands support local fisheries, and are valuable for recreational diving.

Key Biodiversity See box for key species. The site is considered to be the most important breeding site for Sterna bengalensis in the world. See box for key species (numbers of terns are 1991-1993 three-year-averages). Other breeding species include Galerida cristata, Melanocorypha bimaculata (irregular) and Calandrella brachydactyla (irregular). The islands are used as a stopover site by considerable numbers of passage migrants (mainly passerines), especially in spring.

Non-bird biodiversity: Reptiles: important breeding populations of sea-turtles Eretmochelys imbricata (E) and Chelonia mydas (E). Invertebrates: the surrounding coral reefs are thought to be the best-developed and most diverse in the Gulf.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Socotra Cormorant Phalacrocorax nigrogularis breeding  1991-1993  30 breeding pairs  good  A1, B2  Vulnerable 
Lesser Crested Tern Thalasseus bengalensis breeding  1993  24,250 breeding pairs  medium  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Greater Crested Tern Thalasseus bergii breeding  1993  3,500 breeding pairs  medium  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
Saunders's Tern Sternula saundersi breeding  1993  2-3 breeding pairs  good  B3  Least Concern 
Saunders's Tern Sternula saundersi non-breeding  1993  50 individuals  good  B3  Least Concern 
White-cheeked Tern Sterna repressa breeding  1993  10,400 breeding pairs  medium  A4i, B1i, B3  Least Concern 
Bridled Tern Onychoprion anaethetus breeding  1993  34,400 breeding pairs  medium  A4i, B1i  Least Concern 
A4iii Species group - waterbirds breeding  1993  72,550 breeding pairs  good  A4iii   

IBA Monitoring

2013 high not assessed low

Energy production and mining oil and gas drilling likely in short term (within 4 years) majority/most of area/population (50-90%) very rapid to severe deterioration high

Little/none of site covered (<10%)  A management plan exists but it is out of date or not comprehensive  Not assessed  low 


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Sea   major
Coastline   minor
Desert   minor

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
fisheries/aquaculture major
tourism/recreation major
other minor
Notes: Collection of seabird eggs occurs regularly.

Acknowledgements Data-sheet compiled by P. Symens and A. Suhaibani.

Related state of the world's birds case studies

References Basson et al. (1981), Symens and Evans (1993).

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Gulf coral islands. Downloaded from on 23/10/2016

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